22 June 2005
Barrett calls for high speed rail link to curb short haul flights
John Barrett, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, has pressed the Government to cut air pollution by providing alternatives to short haul flights by way of new high speed rail links.
Mr Barrett was speaking during a parliamentary debate on Aviation in the South East. He argued that proper investment in high speed rail could reduce journey times from Scotland to the South of England and make rail competitive with air travel.
Almost two third of flights departing from Edinburgh Airport in Mr Barrett’s constituency go to destinations that can be reached by rail. A report by the Commission for Integrated Transport found that rail travel from Edinburgh to London could be as little as two and half hours, if proper investment in the rail network was made.
Speaking, Mr Barrett said:
“There is no question that Edinburgh Airport makes an enormous contribution to the local economy, not just as an employer but as a gateway to Scotland’s Capital. However, all the evidence shows that air transport not only damages our local environment but is a major contributor to climate change.
“The Government has so far taken a ‘predict and provide’ approach to the expansion of air transport. If followed through, it could wipe out all the gains we have made on cutting greenhouse gases. Their plans are simply not sustainable.
“Short haul flights are some of the worst offenders for pollution but proper high speed rail links could provide fast, environmentally friendly alternatives. Moving passengers from air to rail would help cut the immense environmental damage done by short haul flights. It would also free up capacity at Edinburgh airport for the long haul flights to America, the Middle East and elsewhere that benefit the City and Scotland.
“The Government makes great play in its green credentials. However, their environmental record is seriously tainted by the stance it has taken on aviation. Ministers must stop looking at air transport in isolation from other forms of transport. It is time they finally came up with an integrated transport strategy.”